The Vice President would mention every little thing he believes the NPP has been able to improve upon in Ghanaian society, and critics would jump on him for being too literal and listing things they consider unimportant.
One such achievement critics often downplay is the practical eradication of cholera. Multiple times on the stump, especially when speaking about water and sanitation, the Veep would point out that since taking office, the NPP has all but eliminated the hitherto deadly disease that is cholera.
Whilst many were tempted to laugh it off as Bawumia once more being too arcane and literal in his definition of achievement, a deadly cholera outbreak that has swept through continental neighbours Malawi highlights exactly how crucial keeping that disease in check is and why Bawumia is more than right to celebrate Ghana never having to deal with the menace again.
Malawi’s cholera outbreak
The East African country of Malawi is currently in the midst of its worst cholera outbreak in two decades, a disaster that has so far claimed 750 lives (and counting).
The outbreak started in March 2022 but became worse over the holiday period.
Earlier this month, authorities in the country suspended primary and secondary schools opening in two major cities – the capital, Lilongwe, and the commercial hub, Blantyre – for two more weeks after the Christmas holidays.
On Thursday, January 12th 2023, Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda ordered the closure of many businesses that lack safe water, toilets and hygienic refuse disposal facilities, and announced restrictions on the sale of pre-cooked food.
“We continue to record rising number of cases across the country, despite signs of reduced transmission and deaths in a few areas,” Chiponda said in a statement and urged adherence to sanitation and hygiene measures.
The Minister had earlier announced that 17 people had died from 589 new cases of the waterborne disease “in the past 24 hours.” Malawi has recorded 22,759 cases since the onset of the outbreak in March last year.
Currently, about 15 people are dying every day in Malawi from the outbreak whilst nearly 1,000 remain hospitalised.
At this moment, 14 African countries are battling a cholera outbreak. Africa CDC director Ahmed Ogwell Ouma said 393 deaths from slightly more than 4,000 new cases were reported during the past week on the continent.
Epidemiologist Adamson Muula told the Associated Press (AP) that the outbreak is affecting “the very poor” who lack access to safe water and sanitation.
“People who have functioning water closets, potable water from taps in homes and those who fortify themselves by not eating from questionable places are basically not at risk,” said Muula, a lecturer at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences in Blantyre. He blamed ruling elites for failing to invest in infrastructure.
“People who are not served by the municipal water supply system. People who defecate in bushes and other open spaces, drink from open water sources and those who live in communities where the different water companies can fail to provide tap water for days on end are the ones affected,” said Muula. “Such a disease becomes difficult to control as the bourgeois feel unconcerned.”
As the picture of what other African countries are going through becomes clear, it highlights the importance of Bawumia’s insistence on the importance of Ghana eradicating the deadly disease.
Annual outbreaks of cholera used to be the norm in Ghana until significant investments in water and sanitation by the ruling NPP brought it to a halt.
The Vice President pointed this out during a recent speech at the “All System Go Africa” Symposium on Wednesday, October 19th 2022.
Dr Bawumia was a guest of honour at the symposium, which brought together African Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) experts to brainstorm on the best way to make the WASH Sector on the Continent more responsive to the needs of the populace.
Bawumia revealed the numerous projects undertaken by the ruling NPP government to improve water and sanitation in the country since taking office.
He named projects including the Upper East Water Supply Project, the Yendi Water Supply project. the Tamale Water Supply Project, the Damongo Water Supply Project, the Wenchi Water Supply Project, the Sunyani Water Supply Project, Keta Water Supply Project, Sekondi-Takoradi Water Supply Project, and the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA)/ Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area Water and Sanitation Project.
Bawumia said all these projects are expected to lead to an additional 4.3 million people having access to portable water in Ghana.
“The interventions in the water sub-sector are expected to result in additional 4.3 million beneficiaries having access to potable water. According to the 2021 Population and Housing Census of Ghana on water and sanitation coordinated by the Ghana Statistical Service, the number of households that currently have access to toilet facilities has increased from 33 % to 59.3%. With respect to water, the percentage of households with access to basic drinking water has seen a significant improvement from 79 % in 2018 to 87.7 % in 2021.” Bawumia continued.
“These improvements have resulted in significant gains, with not a single case of cholera recorded over the past 5 years….Ghana’s achievement has been possible, for instance in the sanitation space, because of the Government’s decision to continue to encourage the Public-Private Partnership option in the execution of socio-economic infrastructure,” he added.
As amply demonstrated by the issues in Malawi and elsewhere on the continent, the lack of access to clean and portable drinking water has been a major factor in the ongoing cholera outbreak.
The work done by the NPP government in those sectors has met many of those challenges which used to be commonplace in Ghana, with the additional benefit of all but eradicating the canker of cholera.
The lesson here is that no achievement relating to health can easily be downplayed. As we are seeing in Malawi, there is a very dark alternative to Ghana’s current situation.
Dr Bawumia often points to achievements in digitisation and other sectors that critics are fond of downplaying but in the long run, he is often proven right on the utility of those achievements.
Critics can mock and jape when Bawumia says Ghana has increased access to toilet facilities from 33 % to 59.3% but as we’re seeing elsewhere, this has real-life consequences that are far from funny.
Just like with digitisation, Bawumia appears to possess the foresight to see benefits to moves that the short-sighted simply refuse to fathom. One suspects with time, he would be vindicated on the digital agenda just as he has been on the importance of water and sanitation.